Battle for the NFL
The contempo exclusivity accord amid Electronic Arts and the NFL was the endure and bigger attempt accursed in an advancing attempt amid EA and Sega Sports. This affection outlines the body up amid the two sports gaming rivals led up to this week’s abominable announcement.
by on December 16, 2004
By Brian Ekberg
With shockwaves still actualization from EA’s affliction advertisement that it had anchored absolute rights to the NFL authorization for all amateur actualization on consoles, handhelds, and the PC for the next 5 years, abounding sports gaming admirers are apparently still dazed. While rumors of an NFL exclusivity accord had been authoritative the circuit in industry circles for years–and belief on the absolute amount tag of such a accord bankrupt out in May–it took the absolute December 13 advertisement for it to assuredly become a absoluteness in abounding people’s minds.
In truth, this a lot of contempo about-face is just one in a connected history of aggressive jockeying for bazaar allotment amid EA and Sega. While 2004 may accept been the year in which the action absolutely acrimonious up over conceivably the a lot of admired authorization in American sports video games, the absolute battle has its roots in the final canicule of Sega’s Dreamcast console. Here, we yield a attending at the aboriginal canicule of the Sega-EA altercation over the NFL video bold market, alpha with the actualization of the accepted bearing of consoles.
2001: NFL 2K2 Goes Multiconsole
One constant catechism was on the aperture of all sports gamers if the Dreamcast was appear in 1999: Would EA anytime advance sports amateur accurately for the Sega system? Afterwards all, during the antecedent animate generation, EA had been apathetic to absolution an abundance of its Madden alternation on the Nintendo 64, due to the success of the appellation on the aboriginal PlayStation. Despite the DC getting the aboriginal animate absolution in the accepted bearing of consoles, EA fabricated it no abstruse that it had little absorption in bringing its accepted band of sports titles to the platform.
The aboriginal attempt is fired, as NFL 2K2 break abroad from the Dreamcast and becomes a multiconsole title.
Sega, while ashamed by EA’s snub, had its own beginning band of sports franchises to anguish about: NFL 2K and NBA 2K, both of which were able-bodied accustomed by admirers and critics alike. Still, as the Dreamcast connected to bang in an added awash marketplace, it was bright that, to survive, the NFL 2K alternation would charge to aggrandize above the orange swirl. In 2001, that’s absolutely what happened, as NFL 2K2 was the aboriginal bold in the 2K authorization to accomplish an actualization on assorted consoles.
NFL 2K2 was aboriginal appear for the DC in September, but the absolute fun began if the PS2 adaptation fabricated its admission two months after. Two months afterwards that (and just a few weeks afore Super Bowl XXXVI), the Xbox adaptation of the bold was released. Meanwhile, EA staggered eight versions of Madden 2002 that year (including releases on the N64, Bold Boy Advance, and the Bold Boy Color). The Madden alternation would not see a bold appear on that abounding platforms until 2004, if Madden NFL 2005 came out on the Zodiac, the Nintendo DS, and the dearly ancient aboriginal PlayStation.
2002: Online Gaming Emerges
With the Dreamcast no added and Sega’s NFL 2K alternation cautiously harbored a allotment of this generation’s animate survivors, the battle’s focus confused absolutely against who could boss the accepted arena field. To that end, the anticipation on sports publishers’ minds was the added agitative anticipation of online play. EA was added than a year abroad from announcement abutment for Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, so NFL 2K3 had that console’s online account all to itself. Both NFL 2K3 and EA’s Madden 2003 fabricated online appearances on Sony’s PS2, however, and while the after-effects were alloyed for online performance, the approaching was clear: Any sports bold after an online basic from actuality on out would a lot of acceptable be a disappointment.
In 2002, both EA and Sega accolade to get their football amateur online.
While the Madden alternation had commonly relied on its acquaintance attending and feel, which featured alternation namesake John Madden as its blush analyst, Madden 2003 upped the presentation ante with the accession of Al Michaels, who just happened to allotment the annotation berth with Madden on Monday Night Football broadcasts. The accession of Michaels (and the abatement of above annual man Pat Summerall) added the presentation’s quality, and application a real-life TV duo added absorbed gamers in the angle that they were allotment of a absolute NFL experience.
Not to be outdone, Sega’s 2K alternation got a presentation accession of its own when, in May 2002, the aggregation appear a licensing acceding with ESPN. While it would still be a year afore gamers could adore the abounding allowances of the licensing acceding in the 2K series, the accession of the ESPN cartoon and music did for NFL 2K3 what the accession of Al Michaels did for Madden 2003, alone to a greater degree. NFL 2K3 was in fact the additional time the ESPN cast fabricated its way into an NFL video bold in 2002, as the Xbox adaptation of ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 was appear in January of that year, to characterless fan response. It would be 2003, however, that the ESPN cast was acclimated to abounding effect, and the 2K alternation was retitled to bigger advertise the name of the sports broadcasting giant.
2003: A Circuitous Tapestry
The added circuitous accord amid ESPN and the big two NFL alternation was no added axiomatic than in 2003. This was the year that NFL 2K4, as it was originally titled, was rebranded with the abounding ESPN authorization as ESPN NFL Football. From the aperture ESPN appellation arrangement to the pregame intros and halftime appearance hosted by Chris Berman, the alternation for the aboriginal time looked about absolutely like an absolute ESPN broadcast.